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Gordon (John C.) Photographic Collection
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Project Information
  • Biographical History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: SJSU Special Collections & Archives
    Title: John C. Gordon Photographic Collection
    creator: Gordon, John C., 1887-1967
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS.1996.03.29
    Physical Description: 53 boxes (67 linear feet)
    Date (inclusive): 1910-1963
    Abstract: The John C. Gordon Photographic Collection documents the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from 1910 to 1963. The collection consists of 6,000 photographic prints, 187 panorama prints, and 657 panorama negatives.


    The photographic prints described are open for research. The photographic negatives in Series III are restricted due to their fragile nature.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright is assigned to the San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Special Collections & Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader. Copyright restrictions also apply to digital reproductions of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    John C. Gordon Photographic Collection, MSS-1996-03-29, San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Danelle Moon. Finding aid EAD encoded by Mary Ellen Petrich. Reviewed by Danelle Moon and Erin Louthen. Series III processed by Michael Lara in 2018.

    Project Information

    This finding aid was created as part of the Survey and Cataloging Project, a two-year San José State University Library grant project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The project began in 2008. The Project Director is Danelle Moon. The Project Archivist is Erin Louthen.

    Biographical History

    John C. Gordon was born in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin on January 3, 1887, the first son of Reverend G. W. Gordon. Reverend Gordon earned his living as a photographer and as a Methodist preacher. John Gordon attended Albion College in Michigan, and later took a teaching position in Nebraska. On June 8, 1910, he married Mina Eleanor Schnackenberg and following their wedding reception, the couple moved to Campbell, California. Their first residence was in a prune orchard located on Budd Avenue, and within a few years they relocated to Mayellen Avenue near West San Carlos Street. Gordon earned his early living working at the local hardware store, while raising his young family.
    In 1916 Gordon opened a commercial photography studio located at 97 South First Street in downtown San José, just above what was then known as Lean's Jewelry Store. He later moved to 395 South Street where he remained until his retirement in 1963. As a local commercial photographer, Gordon served the business community by creating glass slides for advertisements used to promote local theaters, sporting events, civic events, and weddings. In addition, Gordon photographed accidents and criminal trials for the San José Mercury News.
    An active community member and businessman, Gordon belonged to the Chamber of Commerce, the San José Water Board, and was Master of the Campbell Grange. He also held membership in the Knights of the Round Table, served on the school board, the YMCA, and the First Methodist Church. Gordon was a noted singer, song leader, and musician, and loaned many of his musical instruments (piano, guitar, marimba, saxophone, and trombone) for use in Santa Clara Valley's annual Fiesta de las Rosas Parade, as well as the school band.
    John C. Gordon died at the age of 80 in 1967, and was buried in Los Gatos Cemetery next to his wife, who died in 1950. His children, Ronald H. Gordon, Doris Herschbach, and Wilbur C. Gordon sold their father's photographic collection to San José State University in 1996.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The John C. Gordon Photographic collection documents the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from 1910 to 1963. The photographic prints are organized by subject, covering a variety of topics that provide a 50-year visual history of the region. Arranged by subject categories assigned by the photographer, the collection documents everyday life, historical context of place and time, and illustrates changes in area business ventures that include agriculture, fruit canning and processing, banking, local businesses, aeronautics, rail roads, and other manufacturing businesses. In addition, the collection includes images of the Winchester Mystery House, the Lick Observatory, storefronts, hospitals, hotels, landscapes, funerals, weddings, parks, parades, and many mixed group shots of families and local organizations.


    This collection is arranged into four series: Series I. Photographic Prints; Series II. Panorama Prints; Series III Panoramic Negatives; and Series IV. Digital Backups.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    California -- History -- Photographs.
    California -- Social life and customs -- Photographs.
    Santa Clara Valley (Santa Clara County, Calif.) -- History -- Photographs.